They are known as the green-ink brigade, the Victor Meldrews of the written word, barking outrage and reordering a failing world from their (upsettingly tidy) bureaux. They write to papers – this one, and many others – in a firm hand, their emerald, soot-black or sapphire words etched into crisp, thick paper, the envelope, on high days and holidays, tissue-lined. Their views are forthright, and cover one side of the sheet only. And as one whose idea of a good time is to set to with a bottle of Quink and a box of vintage Churston Deckle (violet, mint or rose), I say lead me to the green-ink brigade, a well-meaning army of correspondents who believe that if a thing is worth saying, it is worth spending time and money on.
Emails are fine and dandy but, admit it, you write and read 17 to set up a single lunch date. The phone? Terrific, as long as you never leave the house, or are happy for your conversations to come in fragments. A handwritten letter never has to shout, "Is that better?", "Is this better?"
A real letter is a gift, a sincere sacrifice of your precious time. What better way to say, "thank you for the birthday present that you chose, bought, wrapped up prettily, with a card, and packaged safely, even finding an actual post office to send it from"? A text reading THX 4 PREZ is not a thank-you letter, it is a car registration number.
Glam stationery is the new must-have designer accessory with added solipsism: the Louis Vuitton range includes "books, agenda, travel guide, pen" – no thank-yous there, only shopping. The dedicated green-inker excavates for ever more outlandish colours. "I've been using De Atramentis Aubergine in my Pilot Custom fine point," confides one enthusiast on the inginkpen website (strapline, "thoughts on fountain pens and ink"). But laboriously writing by hand means that we scribes don't rush at things: "I might have to purchase a bottle of this ink at a future time," the blogger ventures, rashly.
Pity the social historians of the future, piecing together the 21st century with no billets-doux, no letters home. Do them a favour, treat your Sheaffer to a slug of Sailor Jentle Epinard and try this simple opener: "Dear Mum...".